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Consumption of undercooked crabs risky, could lead to worm infestation, expert warns

Amarachi Okeh

A public health expert, Dr. Olushina Ajidahun, has cautioned Nigerians against eating undercooked seafood, particularly crabs, noting that it could lead to deadly worm infestation.

The physician explained that seafood when undercooked can harbour a type of worm known as lung fluke or flatworm that could make the person that consumes it lose blood, especially when coughing.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Ajidahun said, “Crabs too can harbour worms. This type of worm causes people to cough out blood

“When it gets into the lungs, it causes the person to be coughing out blood. So sometimes people might think the person has lung cancer or tuberculosis because the person would be coughing out blood and it is common with people who consume poorly cooked seafood.”

According to the American Centre for Disease Control, Paragonimus is a lung fluke (flatworm) that infects the lungs of humans after eating an infected raw or undercooked crab or crayfish. Less frequent, but more serious cases of paragonimiasis occur when the parasite travels to the central nervous system.

Speaking further on the warning signs that could indicate problems after eating undercooked crabs, Ajidahun noted that a very common sign is worm infestation.

Other signs are having swollen stomach, iron deficiency, and anaemia.

He said, “Worms in the stomach can cause a person’s stomach to become swollen. They can cause stomach swelling because the patient will have indigestion and with indigestion, there would be gas and the stomach will be distended

“Also, some of these worms can cause intestinal obstructions, where when the worms grow, they block the intestine so food cannot move and with intestinal obstruction, the person starts vomiting and all that.”

He added that one of the dangers of untreated worms is malnutrition. Explaining, he said, “What these worms do is that they compete with the body’s natural nutrients so they kind of block the body’s mechanism of absorbing normal nutrients, especially in children, the children can become malnourished. They can look as if they are not eating well because their body is not able to absorb their meals because of these worms.

“These worms can also predispose the person to iron deficiency and anaemia and the ones that are notorious for that is the one called hookworm.

“Some tapeworms can cause vitamin B deficiency so some of these worms can cause nutritional deficiency.”

He added that some worm infestations can equally predispose a person to allergic reactions while some others can cause intestinal obstructions. “Where when the worms grow, they block the intestine so food cannot move and with intestinal obstruction, the person starts vomiting,” he said.

He warned against self-medication for worm infestations, noting that a proper medical test was necessary to confirm if a person has worm infestation or not before commencing treatment.

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